by Kate Shunney
Last Thursday, September 21, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito set foot on a Morgan County highway project that she supported and designated funds for more than a decade ago when she was a Congresswoman.
Capito came to Berkeley Springs in the afternoon between a session of the Senate and stops in Martinsburg.
Several West Virginia Division of Highways officials briefed Sen. Capito on construction details about the 3.4-mile, four-lane highway that is being built to the east of Berkeley Springs. The bypass begins just south of Winchester Grade Road near Sheetz and will connect with Fairfax Street near Fairview Drive, when complete. The project is expected to cost $69 million.
A second project will take the four-lane bypass from that point northward, with a final connection at U.S. 522.
Sen. Capito asked about the impact of the finished bypass on local traffic and the town, questioning how it would affect commutes and bus transportation.
Commissioner Bill Clark, one of several local elected officials who met with Capito at the construction site, said the county is still trying to figure out how the new road will change traffic flow.
“Having this road will change the way we get around,” he said.
Commissioner Sean Forney said he’s curious how GPS and map apps will adjust travel routes for people driving through the area once the new bypass is open.
Forney said he expects development along the bypass route, and one project – another dollar store – is already proposed to the Planning Commission. He anticipates housing development to pop up along the new highway route.
West Virginia Highways division engineers Travis Ray, Doug Kirk and Jason Tharp filled in details about environmental and construction aspects of the bypass project, while Ryan Arnold, the project’s primary engineer, gave the senator a project overview.
When she was a congresswoman, Capito secured funding for a hospital access road for a new War Memorial Hospital. That funding went elsewhere in the decade it took for the bypass project to be designed and fully funded, but Capito said she was glad to see the roadway finally being built.
In discussions after the briefing, Sen. Capito told officials she’s bracing for a government shutdown if Congress is not able to come to agreements over budget figures in the coming week. She said that’s a losing strategy for the country and hurts residents who rely on federal payments and services, and businesses with federal contracts.
The senator spent Friday in Martinsburg visiting the old Interwoven mill and the Martinsburg Initiative and talking with local media.